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Tech support: How to block smart TVs from tracking your information

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Yahoo Finance tech editor Dan Howley explains how to block smart TVs from tracking your viewing information.

Video transcript

BRAD SMITH: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live, everyone. With Super Bowl kickoff just two weeks away, you might be in the market for a new TV. But there may be some things that you don't know about its tracking capabilities. So joining us now to share the details is Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley as part of our Tech Support segment presented by Verizon. Dan, what do we need to know?

DAN HOWLEY: That's right, Brad. It turns out, you know, you may know this, you may not. If anything is connected to the internet, it's likely being tracked by someone, whether that's advertisers, your internet service provider. But one of the things that you might not expect to be tracking you and how it tracks you and what it tracks is your television. That's right. The big screen in your living room or your bedroom or your kitchen or wherever you have a TV, they can actually track what you watch, when you watch it, for how long you watch it, on what you watch it. And it can be kind of frightening.

And a lot of times, what these companies do-- we're talking about the big companies, Samsung, LG, Sony, even the smaller ones, TCL, Roku-- they use this kind of information, not just to improve the services they offer, though they do that as well, but to sell advertisements, similar to what Facebook or Google use or even Apple use your information for. And so what I want to do is give you an idea of how they do this and how you can turn it off so that they don't track you.

Now if you have a Samsung or LG or Sony TV, since those are the big volume sellers, those are the ones that I'm going to focus on. And really, what these companies use is something called automated content tracking-- or sorry, automated content recognition. And it's a tracking kind of method where the TV is actually able to see what you're watching to a degree, how long you watch it for, if you change the channels, what you're watching it on. So even if you're not using your smart TV's capabilities, the Netflix built-in, and you're watching it from a Roku or even a game console, it'll know that you're watching from there.

It'll then take that information, bind it up, and send it off, and then use it to sell ads to advertisers. Those ads could run on your smart TV. You may see things for different shows or provide you with recommendations for shows at the bottom of the screen. I know Samsung has started doing this. Some people are annoyed about that. And it really is just a part of the larger kind of ad ecosystem that's out there on the internet. Some of this information can then be sold off and then bundled to create larger profiles of you.

So here's how you can turn all of this stuff off. So I, for instance, have an LG TV. I happened upon this, which has been an issue for some time. But when I got an update and it said to accept the privacy policy, and I was like, why do I need a privacy policy for my TV? I'm literally turning it on and playing video games. What does that have to do with my privacy? Scroll through and you'll find out everything about the tracking information.

So if you have an LG, this is what you're going to need to do to turn it off. You're going to have to turn off what's called Live Plus. Now the companies like to kind of cover the name of automated content recognition with their own names. Live Plus is LG's version. You can go into Settings, in General, and then you can go down to the Live Plus option. It should be right there, and then switch it off.

Now the other thing that they do is provide personalized advertising, and they do that by collecting your data. So if you want to turn that off as well, you can go into the advertisement section and then turn off personalized ads. And that's how you can do that on an LG TV. I've done it. It hasn't changed anything with my experience, but now I have the peace of mind knowing that my data isn't being collected.

On Samsung TVs, it's a little easier. You can go from Settings to Terms and Policies. And then right there, they'll have something called Viewing Information Services. That's their name for automated content recognition. You can disable that. And then you can also turn off Internet-Based Advertisements. That's their personalized ad capabilities that you can turn off.

And then finally, we have Sony. They have something that's completely different called Samba Interactive TV. This is a third party service that basically is the same as automated content recognition. You can go into the Settings System Preferences menu and then turn that off directly. And those are the big three. But just because these are turned off doesn't mean that you're not done being tracked.

So if you have a console, if you have a Roku, if you have a Fire Stick, those are all tracking you as well. And so if you really want to get off the grid, it's pretty much impossible without connecting or disconnecting from the internet entirely. But there are settings in each of those to prevent them from collecting as much data as they can. So I think a good start is with these TVs, especially if you're going out to buy one for the Super Bowl. You're going to have to go through the setup process anyway. They're going to ask you to approve these privacy policies. Just hit No, and keep going on.

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